Its structure and chemical composition; its mode of origin; the part which it plays in the formation of new cells, and its function in nutrition and secretion have been investigated.
When examined under favorable conditions in its passive or resting state, the nucleus is seen to be bounded by a membrane which separates it from the cell plasm and gives it the characteristic sharp contour. It contains an apparently structureless nuclear substance, nucleoplasm or enchylema, in which are embedded one or more extremely minute particles called nucleoli, along with a network of exceedingly fine threads or fibers, which in the active living cell play an essential part in the production of new nuclei within the cell. In its chemical composition the nuclear substance consists of albuminous plastin and globulin; and of a special material named nuclein, rich in phosphorus and with an acid reaction. The delicate network within the nucleus consists apparently of the nuclein, a substance which stains with carmine and other dyes, a property which enables the changes, which take place in the network in the production of young cells, to be more readily seen and followed out by the observer.
The mode of origin of the nucleus and the part which it plays in the production of new cells have been the subject of much discussion. Schleiden, whose observations, published in 1838, were made on the cells of plants, believed that within the cell a nucleolus first appeared, and that around it molecules aggregated to form the nucleus. Schwann again, whose observations were mostly made on the cells of animals, considered that an amorphous material existed in organized bodies, which he called cytoblastema. It formed the contents of cells, or it might be situated free or external to them. He figuratively compared it to a mother liquor in which crystals are formed. Either in the cytoblastema within the cells or in that situated external to them, the aggregation of molecules around a nucleolus to form a nucleus might occur, and, when once the nucleus had been formed, in its turn it would serve as a center of aggregation of additional molecules from which a new cell would be produced. He regarded, therefore, the formation of nuclei and cells as possible in two ways—one within preëxisting cells (endogenous cell-formation), the other in a free blastema lying external to cells (free cell-formation). In animals, he says, the endogenous method is rare, and the customary origin is in an external blastema. Both Schleiden and Schwann considered that after the cell was formed the nucleus had no permanent influence on the life of the cell, and usually disappeared.
Under the teaching principally of Henle, the famous Professor of Anatomy in Göttingen, the conception of the free formation of nuclei and cells in a more or less fluid blastema, by an aggregation of elementary granules and molecules, obtained so much credence, especially